What I learned from Dolly Alderton's "Everything I Know About Love"
"Everything I Know About Love" by Dolly Alderton felt like someone had crawled into my brain and spilled all my deepest, darkest thoughts into the pages of an international bestseller.
Alderton’s memoir first appeared on my radar after seeing it in a “Books All Hot Girls Need to Read'' video on TikTok. I found myself pausing the video when her book popped up on the screen. That cover art. Minimalist perfection. Simple bright pink lettering on a blue background with green accents. I loved it already. Yes, I do judge books by their covers. I'm really sorry, but it's a habit I will probably never grow out of.
Naturally, I rushed to order the book for myself. The book was described as a first-hand account “glittering with wit and insight, heart and humor” of Alderton's experiences while coming into adulthood as a woman. The book also includes “satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes...” I loved the whole idea of it. Of things not being exactly chronological, of being able to reflect on who you were just two years or two months ago, of just being in your twenties.
So, instead of just doing a simple book review here, I’d like to recount and reflect upon some of my favorite quotes throughout. I had to keep my favorite pink highlighter next to me at all times while reading—it’s that good.
On going out with her friends:
“My mum often told me that was a misguided act of feminism; that emulating the most loutish behavior of men was not a mark of equality… But I think there were moments when those years of partying were a defiant, celebratory, powerful act; a refusal to use my body in a way that was expected of me… I was starving hungry for experience and I satisfied those cravings with like-minded ramblers. And it created a gang mentality that none of us have ever shaken off.” (page 48)
There are few feelings like getting ready with all your friends. The way the music echoes from the kitchen, someone randomly stopping in your bathroom to ask you to borrow a top or if you can do their eyeliner or where the cups are. Knowing that you have a whole night ahead of you that will surely result in stories for the next day. It's almost euphoric. The way Alderton describes it here makes me want to shut my computer and run into my closet and start getting ready.
On her best friend:
“My mess only takes proper shape with that familiar and favorite piece of my life standing next to me. We know the names of all our grandparents and our childhood toys and we know the exact words that, when put in a certain order, will make each other laugh or cry or shout. There isn’t a pebble on the beach of my history that she has left unturned. She knows where to find everything in me and I know where all her stuff is too.” (page 88)
This quote made me tear up. There is something so special about feeling like you are not going through life alone and that you always have someone to hold your hand through it. Whether that be a best friend, a significant other or even your mom. How lucky am I that I have someone that takes the weight off my shoulders when I'm going through something difficult, built into the same person that I immediately call when something good happens? This quote made me want to pull them even closer.
On wasting a night:
“It is a feeling I grew very used to—panicked and throaty; a sense that everyone in London was having a good time other than me; that there were pots of experiential gold hidden on every street corner and I wasn't finding them; that one day I was going to be dead so why bring any potentially perfect and glorious day to a premature end with an early night?” (page 105)
We are all familiar with FOMO, and Alderton described it so perfectly here. “Panicked and throaty,” I think that's my favorite part. The desire to go out, to do something, to feel like you're not wasting your youth builds up in your throat and your stomach until you feel like you might burst if you don't find yourself in the middle of something in the next 15 minutes. I was so happy that someone else understood the feeling and could put it into words as she could.
On partying too much:
“Growing up engenders self-awareness. And self-awareness kills a self-titled party girl stone-cold dead.”
“I always saw alcohol as the transportation to experience, but as I went through my twenties I understood it had the same power to stunt experience as it did to exacerbate it. Sure, there were the juicy confessions you'd get out of people with dilated pupils in a loo cubicle; the old men with good stories who you'd otherwise never meet; the places you'd go; the people you'd kiss. But there was also all the work that wouldn't get done when you were hungover. All the bad impressions you would make to potential friends because you were so drunk you could barely speak. All those lost conversations, in which someone tells you something really, really important, which are rendered meaningless because neither of you can remember it the next morning. All those hours spent lying in sweat and panic in your bed at 5 a.m., your heart beating as you stare at the ceiling, desperately willing yourself to sleep. All those hours in the cul-de-sac of your head torturing yourself with all the stupid things you said and did, hating yourself for the following few days.”
“Years later, I would discover that constantly behaving in a way that makes you feel shameful means you simply will not be able to take yourself seriously and your self-esteem will plummet lower and lower.” (pages 118-119)
This has got to be my favorite one. Alderton shares with her readers that a lot of her early twenties were spent partying, drinking and everything that goes along with that; many times in excess. I understand this can be a shameful thing to admit because it seems like partying is such a crucial part of your twenties and becoming an adult. Sometimes it feels like it's just a rite of passage, right? But nobody talks about everything bad that comes with it as well. I know that my freshman year of college I struggled a lot with knowing my limits and that resulted in a lot of issues for me, especially when it came to my identity. I have never heard somebody describe this experience in such a way that felt like she had finally put what I was feeling after all these years into words. It made me want to sit down with her for lunch and just spill to her all the things that I've been too ashamed to talk about before.
From Florence, to whom the book is dedicated:
“It may seem that life is difficult at times but it's really as simple as breathing in and out. Rip open hearts with your fury and tear down egos with your modesty. Be the person you wish you could be, not the person you feel you are doomed to be. Let yourself run away with your feelings. You were made so that someone could love you. Let them love you.” (page 203)
Commentary on this book would not be complete without including a quote from Florence. If you read the book, you will learn who Florence is and be moved by her incredible story. With everything that happens while you are coming of age, it can be hard to remember what life is about. And she puts it so perfectly. It became so clear that I almost felt silly for struggling to make sense of it before. After I read this, there wasn't a day that went by where I didn't repeat bits and pieces of this quote in my head like a mantra.
I promise that no matter your age or where you are in life, this book will impact you in some way or another. I cannot recommend it enough. You can find more of Dolly Alterdon’s work at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/profile/dolly-alderton?page=1 .